Juan Diego Catholic High School speech and debate team has a target on their back heading into the state competition, according to Juan Diego Co-director of Forensics Tony Johnson.
“Cedar High School (Cedar City) is our main competition and they’re making T-shirts to rally their team to beat us,” Johnson said. “Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s (Salt Lake City) is bringing their whole squad so the competition is heating up.”
About 25 students representing Juan Diego will compete in the state tournament March 13-14 in Park City, seeking their 5th straight title. The team is ranked in the top 20 in the nation, according to a coaches’ poll.
Juan Diego already has qualified students for three national tournaments after placing well in prestigious invitational tournaments.
Junior Lauren Andrews and senior Alex Zmyslo placed ninth out of 225 debate policy teams at the 2015 California Invitational Feb. 13-17 to qualify for the Tournament of Champions championship, held April 25-27 at the University of Kentucky.
“We had a breakout performance by sophomore Nicole Blaber; it was her best performance so far this year,” Johnson said.
She teamed up with senior Gabe Lewis to finish in 17th place out of 5,000 competitors representing 41 states. Each of these four debaters also earned individual speaking awards.
“This is unprecedented. It is the best Juan Diego has ever done at this tournament and we’ll have seven of our policy debaters return next year, so we’re looking at a strong team next year,” he said.
In January, at the seven-state Southwestern Championships, 45 Juan Diego students, four policy debate teams placed in the top 20 out of 135 teams. Gabe finished third as a speaker, Alex was seventh and Lauren was eighth. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, junior Claire Smith finished in the top 25. More than 2,500 students competed at the tournament.
Qualifying for the National Debate Coaches Association tournament, April 11-13 in Las Vegas are the teams of sophomore Emi Solorzano and Alex Zmyslo, Gabe Lewis and Nicole Blaber, and sophomores Marley Dominguez and Clare McGraw.
To compete in the Catholic Championships, held Memorial Day weekend in Florida, is the policy team of Lauren Andrews and Emi Solorzano.